The principal feature in which the machinery to be employed in the next attempt to lay the Atlantic telegraph cable differs from that employed in the unsuccessful attempt of last summer, consists in certain contrivances by which the velocity of the paying-out of the cable is controlled, to a great extent, by the degree of tension on the cable itself, thus preventing the possibility of any such excessive strain upon it as would be liable to produce a rupture. This is obviously a great improvement upon the old apparatus, which was entirely at the mercy of the brakesman, to whose carelessness or stupidity the failure of the last expedition has been generally attributed. The English newspapers recently received here contain programmes of the next expedition, with descriptions—though not of the most intelligible character—of the apparatus, an important part of which is that to compensate immediately for any sudden increase of strain caused by the pitching of the ship, or by suddenly arriving at an increased depth of ocean. We give a description of this from the London Daily News of April 24 :— " The cable, after passing four times round each of the wheels of the paying-out apparatus, passes under a grooved wheel or pulley, the axis of which is attached to a weighted rod working in a piston. This grooved wheel is so arranged that it can rise or fall in a framework, according as the tension of the cable which runs under its circumference, and over another fixed pulley, by which it passes out of the ship, is greater or less than the weight of the pulley and its weighted rod." We are not told to whom the credit of the invention of this portion of the machinery belongs, but great credit is given to Mr. Bright, the engineer of the Telegraph Company, and to Mr. Everett, the chief engineer of the U. S. steam frigate Niagara, for having overcome the numerous mechanical difficulties. The invention, however, in our judgment, really belongs to H. Berdan, of this city, by whom a fatent has been secured in England, specifying it, together with other contrivances in connection with it, by which the operation of paying out is entirely controlled by the degree of tension on the cable, instead of only partially, as is the case in the machinery now being put on board the Niagara and Agamemnon. The arrangement of the grooved pulley in the apparatus above described, it may be stated, differs from that proposed by Mr. Berdan in its working vertically instead of horizontally, but no change of action is involved in such change, which simply consists in placing the framework upright instead of laying it down upon the deck. Drawings and specifications, together with a working model of his apparatus which had been exhibited by Mr. Berdan in this city, were taken to England by Mr. Everett and Mr. C. W. Field when they last left New York, and as the original drawings of the apparatus were made in our office, and the model was carefully examined by us, we are enabled to state without hesitation that those drawings, specifications and model represented the only important feature of the apparatus mentioned in the above extract. We sincerely regret that any disposition should appear to be manifested on the part of those having control of this great enterprise in which two great nations are so nobly engaged, to appropriate for the accomplishment of their object what seems justly to belong to another; and, indeed, we wonder that pains should not have been taken to acknowledge with gratitude every effort or suggestion of any value to aid them from whatever source ; and we hope that the Company will be able to give some satisfactory explanation for employing, without credit to him, this 5 portion of Mr. Berdan's patented apparatus.
This article was originally published with the title "New Machinery for Paying Out the Atlantic Telegraph Cable—Who is the Inventor ?" in Scientific American 13, 37, 293 (May 1858)